The education of your children will be one of the key elements to sort out when planning on moving abroad.

Importance of Education

children at schoolThe education of your children is a natural priority when emigrating

Education for your children will, undoubtedly, be an important factor in planning your move. If you are moving to an English-speaking country, such as Australia, Canada or New Zealand, then the process of adaptation will be relatively smooth. The schools are generally well-funded and the curriculum will be academically rigorous.

However, if you are moving to a non-English speaking second or third-world country then the education your children will receive may be much more of an issue. You will obviously need to appraise the local system to see what level of education your children will receive. You may have the option of sending your children to an international school where, at the very least, they will work towards an internationally recognised qualification such as the International Baccalaureate.

Other than the cost implications of doing so (school fees abroad can be as expensive as in the UK), there will be the style of education they will receive. If you really believe your move is for the long term, it may be better to place your kids in the local system where they will be forced to learn the language and will make friends.

Below is a comparison of the rate of increase in spending on education in selected countries between 2005 - 2011 from the OECD.

oecd spending on education 2011 v1

Public spending includes both direct expenditure on educational institutions and subsidies to housholds administered by educational institutions.

Private spending is recorded net of public subsidies that educational institutions may receive.

Australian Education System

The Australian school system is underpinned by a set of goals set out in a declaration made by all the individual State Education Ministers in 2008; the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians.

The two national goals were designed to ensure that

1)    Australian schooling promotes equity and excellence
2)    all young Australians become successful learners, confident and creative individuals and active and informed citizens

The Australian Curriculum sets consistent national standards to improve learning outcomes for all young Australians. It sets out, through content descriptions and achievement standards, what students should be taught and achieve, as they progress through school. It is the designed to be the foundation for all future learning, growth and active participation in the Australian community.

If you are want further information about the curriculum in advance of your move, there is a great website set up by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA). This is a fantastic resource, allowing you to look at the full curriculum of schools throughout Australia. With it, you can help to make the transition for your children to their new schools a bit easier as they will have, at least some, familiarity with their new lessons.

Formal schooling in Australia starts with a kindergarten, or preparatory year, followed by 12 years of primary and secondary school. In the final year of secondary books piled upschool, Year 12 students can study for the Senior Secondary Certificate of Education (commonly referred to as Year 12 certificate), which is required for entry by most Australian universities and vocational education and training institutions. It is also recognised as an entry requirement by many international universities.

The Australian Government provides national leadership in setting national policy priorities for school education and investing in actions to secure nationally agreed policy priorities. However, State governments have responsibility for the delivery of school education in Australia with schools operated by government and non-government education authorities, including Catholic education commissions and independent school authorities.

As the school system is devolved to the control of the individual States, each State has its own Education Department, responsible for local administration and adherence to national objectives.

Here is a list of the State Education websites, which provide a wealth of information for parents about the education system in each State.

New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, Northern Territory, Tasmania

Further Resources

My School - allows you to search for detailed profiles of Australian schools by entering either the school's name, suburb or post code. It provides statistical information about the resources and performance of each school and allows comparisons with other schools throughout the country.

Department of Education, Australian Government - a wealth of information about the Australian Education System

Canadian Education System

Canada has a high quality public education system that provides education for over 95% of the population. It consists of schools that start at Kindergarten level up to Grade 12 and the system is generally known as K-12 (aged 5yrs – 18yrs).

By law, children start school aged 5 or 6 and continue until they are 16 or 18, depending on the province or territory. The school year typically starts at the end of August and runs through to the following June.

Whilst many aspects of the system are found throughout Canada, the schools are actually administered by the 10 individual provinces. The 3 territories of Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut don’t have the same constitutional status as the provinces and have a greater degree of control from the federal government. 

The provinces each provide their own curriculum, allowing the schools to reflect the regional and historic differences of the province. As Canada is a bi-lingual country, there are many schools that offer bi-lingual options, even where the province is predominantly mono-lingual.

Private School Option

There are more than 1,700 private and independent schools in Canada. The reasons to choose private school are broadly the same as in other countries – namely that parents opt to pay for better resources, facilities and academic quality. There are a broad range of options, including Day, Boarding, Single Sex and Religious schools. Should you be interested in learning more about private schooling in Canada, a very good place to start is at the Our Kids website.

For much more information about the individual educations systems within the Provinces and Territories, please follow these links to their Education Department websites.

Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, Newfoundland & Labrador, Newfoundland & Labrador, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, Prince Edward Island, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Yukon

Further Resources

Here are links to some more valuable resources to help you research the Canadian Education System.

Council of Ministers of Education – an overview of Education in Canada

The Government of Canada - an overview of the school system in Canada

Schools in Canada – providing an overview for international students

New Zealand Education System

school-in-nelson-new-zealandA school in Nelson, New ZealandIn New Zealand, there are three main choices with regard to type of school.

State Schools – these educate most New Zealanders (85%) and are funded by the government. However, parents are usually asked to contribute to activities outside of the core curriculum, which can range from NZ$250 – 500 a year. There are other charges as well for sports, trips, exam fees and other related costs.


State Integrated – these are schools with a particular character such as religion e.g. Catholic or a special educational method e.g. Montessori. Around 10% of children go to these schools which, whilst funded by the state, charge additional fees that may run to NZ$1,500 a year.

Private schools – there are a wide range of schools in this category, including single-sex, boarding and day schools. Whilst fees vary, a typical fee is in the region of NZ$20,000 a year. Just under 5% of children go to private schools.

State and State-integrated schools follow a National Curriculum and children gain a National Certificate of Education. A wealth of further information can be found on the New Zealand Qualifications Authority website.

There are two strands to the national curriculum – an English-language one and a Maori one.

The English-language one has

A Vision

•    for children to be confident, connected, actively involved, lifelong learners


•    excellence, by aiming high and by persevering in the face of difficulties
•    innovation, inquiry, and curiosity, by thinking critically, creatively, and reflectively
•    diversity, as found in our different cultures, languages, and heritages
•    equity, through fairness and social justice
•    community and participation for the common good
•    ecological sustainability, which includes care for the environment
•    integrity, which involves being honest, responsible, and accountable and acting ethically, and
•    to respect themselves, others and human rights.

Key competencies

•    Thinking - is about using thinking processes to make sense of information, experiences and ideas
•    Using language, symbols, and texts - working with, being able to understand, and make sense of the codes (languages and symbols) in which knowledge is expressed
•    Managing self - having self-motivation, a "can-do" attitude, and seeing oneself as a capable learner
•    Relating to others - is about interacting effectively with a range of different people in a range of different situations, including things like being able to listen well, recognise different points of view, and share ideas
•    Participating and contributing - being involved in communities, such as family, whānau, school, and be able to contribute and make connections with other people.

Learning areas
There are 8 learning areas (or subject areas) in the New Zealand Curriculum:
•    english
•    the arts
•    health and physical education
•    learning Languages
•    mathematics and statistics
•    science
•    social sciences
•    technology

classroom schoolClassroom at a schoolFor further information about the curriculum, you can follow the link to the part of the Ministry of Education's website relating to the National Curriculum.

Compulsory education in New Zealand is divided into primary, intermediate and secondary schooling. Primary schools are the first level. They cater for children from the age of five years, from entry to school, to the end of year 6 (usually age 10). Children in years 7 and 8 (age 11 - 12) may either be in a separate intermediate school or part of a primary, secondary or composite/area school.

Secondary schools usually provide for students from year 9 (age 13) until the end of year 13 (age 17). Adult students who return to school enter in whichever year the majority of their subjects are in. Area/composite schools, which are usually based in rural areas, combine primary, intermediate and secondary schooling at one location.

Starting school

A child starting primary school for the first time between July (when the school roll is counted) and 31 December of a school year, and aged between five and six, will be classed as year 0. Children who begin school for the first time between 1 January and before the July roll count will be classed as year 1. Children most commonly start school when they turn five even though schooling is compulsory from age six. Where children start school for the first time after the age of six, they are placed in the same year as other children of the same age.

Deciding on a school

Most children attend the school closest to where they live. Parents and caregivers can apply to enrol their children at any state school of their choice. However, if a school has too many children wishing to enrol, the Ministry of Education may require a school to operate an enrolment scheme to prevent over-crowding. An enrolment scheme must contain a home zone with clearly defined boundaries. Students who live within the home zone have an absolute right to enrol at the school.

Students living outside the zone can still apply to enrol, but if there are more applicants than places, a ballot will be held to determine who can enrol. Brothers and sisters of current and former students and children of board employees have a higher priority for the out-of-zone places.

Some key resources for the New Zealand Education System

Ministry of Education website providing practical information about education for parents and carers

New Zealand Government Overview of Education and Schooling

Education Review Office, offers reviews of individual schools and a wealth of information for parents.

Education Counts, a website dedicated to helping you find a school in New Zealand

Home Teaching

home schooling deskHome schooling can be an alternative way to educate your childrenIf the local education options are likely to be a matter of concern because they are either non-existent or very inadequate then you may well want to go down the route of exploring home teaching.

It is usually done as a matter of last resort. Emigrating to another country implies at least a strong willingness to embrace the local culture and children have the advantage that it is usually easier to do so when young. However, it is also important to recognise that, no matter what your long-term goals and intentions regarding your move are, there will be a possibility that through choice (hopefully) or other circumstances you and your family may well return to the UK. To allow your children to slip (back) into the UK’s education system as seamlessly as possible, you may well be faced with having to home teach your children at home.

This will have potentially significant consequences for you. At the most selfish, it is likely to mean that you have children around the house with you much more. If you are busy trying to get a new business off the ground the last thing you want is to be refereeing fighting siblings all day.

It will also necessitate careful planning in terms of sourcing the materials with which to teach your kids. Depending on your likely visits to the UK, you may want to plan well ahead in terms of the range of the materials you take with you initially. Learning to read and write are the basics for younger children so taking a range of suitable reading materials for several levels ahead will be well worthwhile.

If you have a fast internet connection in your new home, there is a vast range of materials on line to help with following the national curriculum. If you need to top up with additional materials trips home, or visits by friends and relatives, will be vital to keep you up to date.

The biggest problem with home teaching is not the range and availability of materials but finding

a) the time to do it in a disciplined and consistent manner  and

b) getting your kids interested and stimulated enough to actually learn something

mother and daughter learning togetherEducating your child can be immensely rewardingIt will also have the knock-on effect of isolating your kids further from potential news friends around them. It is very important to ask yourself, as a parent, whether you will have the time, let alone patience, to devote to home teaching. It can be intensely rewarding, not just in terms of the bonding and time spent with your kids but will also give you the immense satisfaction of seeing how your kids learn and develop.

Getting your kid’s education right will be one of the most important decisions you will face as a parent. Making sure you give your kids the opportunity to receive the very best education they can is a vital part of parenting. Your move abroad may well open up a world of experience and opportunity for them that would never have seemed possible in the UK.

However, you must undertake detailed research to make sure that your kids’ future is not compromised by your move abroad. In the end, the move is down to you. They have moved abroad because of what you want to do. It is only fair to do your utmost to ensure that it is for the better, not the worse.